My work gathering and burning wood from the pecan orchard continued even as the humidity became almost unbearable by late May. On top of that, I had developed a stress fracture in my right foot. Likely, it occurred by twisting my foot while at the burn pile or by stumbling over a larger chunk of wood while picking up branches and limbs in the orchard. Or maybe it was simply from doing too much walking around every day. As it was, my Fitbit indicated anywhere from 20,000 to 26,000 steps a day when I worked in the orchard. But, because of the bum foot, I learned to work smarter, slower and more carefully over the last month. And on the weekends, FD mowed weeds in the areas of the orchard where I had cleaned during the week.
At least the insects in the orchard are mostly tolerable now that the rains have dwindled and the summer heat has set in. Most days, I use essential oils and an organic insect repellent that seems to work, though I have to reapply them often due to sweating. I still pull off a tick or two most evenings, and nothing really seems to keep those blood-thirsty devils at bay. And if the ticks were not enough, Chiggers also manage to crawl up my pant legs, leaving bites all along my sock line or outside my waistband.
But my reward comes each time I pull up to the burn pile and unload another pile of wood from the trailer, tossing the branches and limbs into the flames. Fire has always felt soothing to me. And I also feel good when my burning is through and I put up the electric buggy, plugging it in to charge for another day’s work and gathering up my gear to head to the house. I appreciate the cool of our air-conditioned home and a good, refreshing shower at day’s end. Spent and “whipped”, as my grandmother would say, I am always thankful for a good meal and a comfortable bed to rest my weary bones.
Emma and Ronnie often accompany me in the pecan orchard. And I always take my camera and zoom lens along just in case something interesting presents itself. Most days, all I manage to photograph are Emma and Ronnie grazing or bedded down near where I work. They have grown into beautiful yearlings. Ronnie is an eight-point buck in velvet. The skin on his antlers is warm, and a prime spot for ticks to gather. Emma has been having trouble with ticks on the inside corner of her left eye – I would even say an infestation of them. While Ronnie has allowed me to pick ticks off of him, Emma will have no part of it. But then Emma does not mind when I smack big horse flies that land on her, while Ronnie runs from me if he sees my hand at the ready to smack a fly. I am still surprised that they have stayed together these six months since we released them. I assumed Ronnie would take off in search of other males, which is what the bucks do this time of year. A few older bucks have shown up on the game camera and I was sure Ronnie would know about them. Still, he seems content to hang out with his sister. And I enjoy their company as I work. They are never far off, and when I move to another spot, they move too.
Every day while I work in the woods, I reflect on that little fawn FD and I had seen on the west end of our property near the old river channel back in late May, and I wonder if it is still alive. My nature (as the eternal pessimist) has always been to prepare myself for the worst, so that I will not be devastated when bad news comes. So, each day I worked in the orchard, I made time to take the buggy to the west end where we saw the fawn, but saw no sign of the mother doe or the fawn. In fact, the area seemed to be void of any wildlife except the usual woodland birds. At least I saw no signs of predator scat or a kill. I told myself maybe it was best I did not find anything, as I had seen too much death in the five years since we had witnessed Daisy deer lose all but one of her fawns, even up to the age of six months. And I had not forgotten the coyote overpopulation we experienced during the winter months either. Yet, I still continued to make the trip out west hoping I might see the fawn again. Just like I hold hope that I will see Daisy deer again one day.
Early in July, FD made a trip to the west end to pull the game card in the camera located near the old river channel. It was an area we had seen a lot of doe traffic run through in the last year. Even in daytime hours, that portion of the woods is fairly dark. The only sun that filters in comes from the outer edges of the tree line that opens up into a vast wheat field leading to the river channel. We had avoided entering the darkness of that area of the woods since we spotted the fawn late in May. By now, a tangle of cat brier and other vine, along with various woodland plants, made it impossible to see the old buggy path, and we did not want to risk running over any critters that might be traversing along the same path. So FD hiked in to retrieve the camera card, but saw no animal life along the way.
Back at the house, FD looked at ninety-eight videos from June 11th to July 4th while I was busy in the kitchen. As usual, I did not have time to look at numerous videos, many that would show a bird flying through, or a opossum sniffing around, or an armadillo scampering along. Then suddenly, he called me to the computer in a serious tone.
Seeing the videos FD called my attention to, I was, of course, elated. The little fawn we saw as a newborn is doing well and has a sibling! And even though I was hopeful that the mama doe might be Daisy, it is not her. The mother appears to be young, and she is doing a great job scouting the area constantly. Most of the videos show her patrolling the area and on high alert. She is right on track bringing her fawns out together at a month of age. They are probably beginning to eat some greens, mimicking mama, practicing running and leaping, and being watchful and on alert. It did my heart good to see those videos.
Now that the summer’s extreme heat is upon us, my work in the orchard will be even tougher. But every time FD mows between a row of those enormous trees I see a little more progress. I try not to think about the “what if’s” of the orchard’s future. There is a job to do now and it is huge. I am sure Mama Deer feels much the same about her day-to-day life raising two fawns. Sometimes our life’s work seems huge and overwhelming, but there is often goodness and moments of wonder at every turn.
© 2017 Day by Day the Farm Girl Way…